About three seconds. That’s how much time visitors will give your website before forming a first (and, perhaps fixed and final) impression. (There are versions of this parable in which time gets extended — up to about a minute; still, that’s almost just as harrowing.) Given that truncated pitch cycle, it’s essential that your website design becomes instantly impactful to visitors.

There is much good content available via the interwebs respecting the development of eye-catching, mind-grabbing websites; and, via this post, I will add to the cache by relaying three important tips — one for each second you have to gain a website visitor’s more complete attention.

The Eyes Have It. Internet users are the ultimate grazers. That inherent impatience means that you’ll need to consider, very precisely, what visitors to your website will look at in the short frame in which you have their attention, before they move on to the next blade of grass. Too much clutter will confuse them. Lack of flow will distract them. Your website design should ultimately track a user’s eyes across design elements to the final destination of a compelling call to action — more on that in a moment. You don’t necessarily need to utilize a heat map to determine where folks look when they view your website; but, you can still get input on what you have designed by using traditional tools.

Sameness is Lameness. One of the traditional problems with law firm websites is that they have all sort of always looked just about the same: bad. While there is now distinctly more variety in law firm websites than there was (and even as some are downright innovative — or so viewed in certain circles), there is a danger in attempting to design a website ‘for a law firm’ (since that line of thinking results in your unconscious adherence to the notion that there is a template design for a law firm website to which you should stick) or to use a website design firm that produces stock websites for lawyers. There are so many different website styles available – why not try something that somebody else hasn’t. Instead of looking at your industry exclusively when figuring out what your website should look like, scan more broadly. Maybe the look you’re after borrows significant elements from websites of CPA firms, or architecture firms.

Just Do It. When all the window dressing is stripped away, the main function of a website is to acquire clients. But, as options proliferate and customers become savvier, the sales cycle gets longer — if for no other reason than that there are so many other readily-accessible options out there. So, you want your potential clients and referral sources to do something before they leave your website. The simplest example is probably getting someone to sign up for your eNewsletter. There are a number of different ways to address calls to action; however, you should be designing your website with an idea of your conversion flow in mind.

For more on developing deeply impactful websites, attend the free webinar ‘Resonation to Revenue: How to Transform Your Website Into a Dynamic Client Generation Tool’, featuring Jeff Lantz of Esquire Interactive, and presented by Lunch Hour Legal Marketing.

This post original appeared in the Massachusetts Bar Association’s eJournal.